The weather in Chicago has been extremely variable lately. While I have seen vegetable seedlings (tomato and pepper plants) available for purchase for the last two weeks, I have been fighting the urge to buy them just yet. In a moment of weakness, my friend Joyce had to step in and tell me to wait a couple of weeks, and I know she’s right. I have been really impatient.
I did buy two wooden planter boxes from Lowe’s, and I am pretty happy with them so far. The brand is called “Garden Treasures”, and the price, $59.99 each, is terrific for the size of the boxes. They are 12 inches deep, 12 inches wide, and 40 inches long. Shipping was free, which really helps this city lady with no access to a car during the day. Unfortunately, they do have one coat of a thin brown stain on them, which makes them look pretty, but is not the best case for planters that will yield food crops.
Once I received them and decided to keep them, I knew I needed to prepare them for a life outside. I want them to last as long as possible. Even if I decide not to try to grow vegetables or food in the future, I will always want to grow plants and flowers, and I can do that in these wooden boxes. It’s time for some weatherproofing.
The first step was caulking the joints. I used silicone caulk in a formula that dries clear. Then I let it dry for two days.
Next, I wanted to add some plastic glides to the planter bottoms, to hold them up off the ground and keep them drier. I bought 6 packs of plastic glide tacks (4 glides to a pack), and had a handsome helper pound them in with a hammer.
The third step was to apply some kind of waterproofing product. I needed something non-toxic, since my plan for this year is to grow pole beans and lettuce in the boxes. After researching many products online,
I ended up making my own from a recipe I found online at dengarden.com. I melted beeswax pellets (pastilles) in a double boiler, then stirred in jojoba oil, and poured the mixture into an old plastic margarine tub. It turned out golden and beautiful.
I used some old rags to wipe the waterproofing wax all over the planter boxes. After getting three splinters in my fingers, I got wise and put on some old gloves. Then I let the planters dry for a couple of days. A drop of water now beads up on the surface.
The last step was to line the interior of the boxes with landscape fabric. I did this to keep the potting mix from falling through the drainage holes in the bottom of the boxes, as well as to keep the mix from touching the stained wood of the planters. I bought an inexpensive roll of landscape fabric from Home Depot and attached it to the inside of the boxes with carpet tacks.
I filled the boxes with organic potting soil, and added just a few cold weather annuals (linaria and nemesia) for color. I dropped four pole bean seeds and three lettuce mix pellets in each box. Since the pole beans should germinate in less than 2 weeks, I will need to order my trellis kit and get the trellis up for the beans to grow on.
I have come to realize that no area of my patio garden receives full sun. With its’ eastern exposure, it is shaded by our building’s shadow after noon, and with the shadows cast by our street trees and its’ own brick walls, it has dappled light even in the pre-noon hours. It will be interesting to see what will grow well here. My challenge will be to make smart choices and to find ways to reflect some light back into the space. I hope the lettuce and pole beans will survive; I have changed their positions from my original plan to give them the maximum amount of light. A haiku for the day:
I am infinite.
I am truth, and love, and light,
And bits of stardust.
Lowe’s, 2 Planter boxes $119.96
Home Depot, Silicone caulk $ 3.98
Home Depot, Landscape fabric $ 5.00 (3x50ft)
Home Depot, 6 pks plastic glides $ 11.22 (4pk is 1.87)
Whole Foods, Beeswax pastilles $ 8.99 (sm. Bag)
Whole Foods, Jojoba oil $ 12.99 (4 ounces)
Gethsemane Garden Center, 2 Bags potting soil $10.98 (5.49 each)
Gethsemane Garden Center,4 nemesia, 4 linaria $ 39.92 (4.99 each)
+$54.51 (Seeds and items included in Feb. blog post)
$267.55 so far on my patio garden
Until next time, I’ll be busy filling in these blank spaces!
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